A sharp tale of government and terrorism fortified by an exceptional POTUS protagonist.

PRESIDENTIAL CONCLUSIONS

Samantha “Sam” Harrison must lead the United States against coordinated nationwide terrorist strikes in this political thriller, the final installment of a trilogy.

Returning for her third appearance, Sam’s now the 46th U.S. president, defeating Hillary Clinton’s bid for a second term. Sam’s first year in office, 2021, is burdened by rumors of terrorist attacks in America. These are exacerbated by Iranian religious leader Ali Khamenei’s viral YouTube video, a speech in which he declares a jihad against the U.S. as well as Britain and Russia. What’s anticipated unfortunately comes true: simultaneous suicide bombers in multiple cities wreak havoc, resulting in thousands of deaths. Sam, who gets advice from former presidents (the Clintons), has a plan involving a potential deal with Russia and making nice with patronizing Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, Richard Haddad, deputy director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Services, has leeway to track down suspects, even domestic, which Sam may or may not be aware of. Haddad gets a solid lead following the unexplained disappearance of Chief of Staff Zachary Watts, while fed-up Idaho citizen Mark Steinberger, wanting answers for the mass killings, looks in Washington, D.C., ultimately zeroing in on Sam’s congresswoman daughter, Amanda Harrison-Donnelly. Sam’s more than proven herself throughout Wood’s (Presidential Declarations, 2015, etc.) trilogy, a strong political figure who’s overcome tragedies, like her husband’s death. But the story spotlights numerous strong female characters, including Amanda; SEAL-trained limo driver and bodyguard Sara Friedman; and even—in a small role—veteran “no-nonsense judge” Carol Ann Vogel. Wood generally forgoes detailing characters’ physical attributes but molds individuals via personalities; old-school Haddad, for one, loathes using social media as part of his investigations. Much of the plot’s relayed through dialogue, but an unmistakable cynicism of Washington politics prevails. Most notable is political spinning: the president’s staff covers up an “incident” by accusing an innocent man of attempted assassination. Grimmer moments are impossible to miss, from devastating explosions to scenes of torture.

A sharp tale of government and terrorism fortified by an exceptional POTUS protagonist.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5375-9062-2

Page Count: 344

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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